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Voice of the Syracuse Chiefs - Jason Benetti

* 7News Sports Director - Mel Busler

* Athlon Sports Baseball Writer - Mark Ross

We'll react to the end of the season for the Watertown Rams, preview game three for the Watertown Red and Black and hopefully have some resolution to what our "pro hockey" team's name will be! Plus, our fantasy football previews continue and we'll recap the MLB trade deadline.


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SU Football: Season (Eye) Openers?

 

 

 

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

 

Game one hasn't been a game won too often for Syracuse.

Syracuse University hates non-Syracuse people.

Okay, that's a little Kanye, a little dated and severely dramatic, I know, but Friday night games are a lot of work for fans having to drive an hour, or more, to get to the Carrier Dome. I also know I've talked and written about this far too often. But be it Watertown or Albany or any other point in any direction, late night weekday games (even ones scheduled for Friday evening) are difficult to attend -- and forget about tailgating.

Yup, television and the possibility of being seen out weighs butts in seats. And you can't schedule fairly for everyone, so home-town fans should get the benefit more often than not. I get all of that, but it still doesn't make things easier.

Actually, for a lot of fans, it's one of those, "Okay, what time do I leave work" type of games with the opponent being... Villanova. FCS? Bah. It's Labor Day weekend for a lot of us but that doesn't mean all of us leave work early that Friday.

So I decided to do a little research -- thank you, Google -- to see just how season-starting contests usually turn out for Syracuse anyway. Are they even worth attending, regardless of opponent? I mean, I've been to several, I've watched for years, it seems like SU usually starts a season below .500, right? Well, as it turns out, yes that is correct.

Since 1990, a time span that includes five coaches (!) for the program, Syracuse has 10 wins compared to 14 losses in its season debuts. Going back to 2000, the Orange men have a paltry 4-10 record in games one of seasons -- a record tarnished greatly by one Greg Robinson (zero Ws in four openers). Regardless though, those numbers are pretty bleak.

Of course, going back 24 years, Syracuse hasn't exactly opened with too many easily-defeated cupcakes, either. In terms of star power, the Orange played only six schools from non-power conferences (including BYU), going 5-1 in those contests. So while the Orange lose more than win the openers, at least it's an opponent of some note.

Still, winning game one does seem important, as there is a type of corollary to how the team will finish. Syracuse, since '90, averages just over seven wins a season when starting out with a victory, as opposed to just over five Ws when met with a loss in the first game. Take from that what you will, but it does seem, especially with only twelve games to choose from, there's something to be gained by not screwing up out of the gate.

Which takes us back to Villanova.

Yes, it's a team predicted to finish second in its league, but it is also a team from a lesser level of collegiate football. A program with worse facilities than Syracuse (I assume, anyway) and with fewer scholarships to offer. In other words: Syracuse should win game one. Kind of rare, right? And a victory August 29, history says, should lead to a presumed bowl berth.

While I still don't care for the date of the game, if there is such a thing as scheduling a win, well, especially for a program trying to perpetually fight back as Syracuse, then I guess you have to do what you have to do. Even if it's a game that will likely attract fewer than 35,000 Orange fans, a win that early is too valuable to pass up.

And, besides, maybe this slap in the face will prove better than the usual kick in the butt for the out-of-town fans who will be in attendance come next month. Maybe it will be worth taking off a few hours from work early that final Friday in August to actually see the home team happy after the final horn sounds?

The assumption being, of course, Syracuse actually wins its debut this time.

 

SU Football: Second Year, Same Verse -- So Far

 

 

 

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

 

 

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Scott Shafer continues to be the opposite of what we expect out of a coach. This is a very good thing.

Quick, think of the most disappointing moment of 2013 for the Syracuse Orange.

There were more than a few to pick, no question, but I'm betting Syracuse's disturbingly close loss to Penn State is pretty near the top of the "I'd rather forget that one" list for fans. A strange 23-17 loss for the Orange; a game of what could have been and, more accurately, what should have been. Instead of a nice win to start the '13 campaign, Scott Shafer began his reign already below .500.

And nearly a year later, you know who not only still talks about that loss, he openly blames himself for the outcome?

"I look back at the Penn State game and I did a poor job. That was our opener and I lost that game for us. I felt like I should've limited the number of calls, the number of checks and adjustments on both sides of the ball and just let them go out and play. There were  couple of games early in the season, that one and the Northwestern one especially, where we gave up some plays because we asked kids to do too much mentally as opposed to just playing football."

Of those 92 words spoken by Syracuse's second-year head coach, Scott Shafer, not a one is surprising. I evaluated Shafer's first year on the job as successful not just for the wins and the eventual bowl victory, but also for the way in which Shafer operates. Coach Speak to Scott Shafer must be what Mandrin Chinese is to me -- foreign and complicated. And if you thought Shafer's honesty in his first season at the helm was born of naivety, an "awe shucks, I'm just learning the ropes," well, you are wrong.

I couldn't be happier that "Some What Established" Scott Shafer seems more or less like "Allow Me To Introduce Myself," Scott Shafer of last year. He's actually becoming like a more physically stout version of Jim Boeheim -- not afraid to say what needs to be said; not afraid to just be himself.

There's obvious differences -- Boeheim's decades of consistent success and his being a curmudgeon among the most glaring - but there are similarities between the Hall of Fame basketball coach and the football man. Characteristics very befitting Syracuse University athletics, right? It takes some backbone, some conviction, to be able to sell Central New York to some of our country's finest athletes. SU hoops is in the upper class of college basketball, but it's still penthouse living in...Syracuse, NY. SU football doesn't have the same luxuries but Shafer, following in Doug Marrone's footsteps, is making his way.

There's a different attitude needed to last, just ask Greg Robinson.

Oh, and winning helps, too. (Ask Greg -- Gerg -- about that one, too.)

To that end, Shafer expects as many wins, eight, out of the upcoming slate as most (realistically thinking) fans. I've forever said and written that eight wins should be the benchmark for Syracuse football -- sometimes below, sometimes above, but usually near that line. Yet, I'm reasonably confident someone like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer or fill in the blank would A) never admit to such a low goal, and B) would never have even answered that question in the first place. Which, to be fair, most coaches wouldn't bother to respond with anything but some sort of run-away sentence.

Shafer, though, still attempts to answer a question with an actual answer. He'll tell you, mostly unprompted, that last September is still on his mind, even though most coaches only talk about the next game, the next quarter, the next play. Of course, those coaches are lying. Shafer may give some fluff answers occasionally, but he usually doesn't hide from anyone, including himself.

Which is why the coach brought up Penn State and last year. An assessment of his game one as head man, where defeat was snatched from the sure jaws of victory, that very well may be correct. Syracuse really may have lost because of Scott Shafer, directly or indirectly. True or not, he hasn't forgotten that loss like a lot of those fans haven't, and he'll let us know about it because it's on his mind.

 

 

  


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We're back, everyone!

After a little more than two years away, Matt Mc's Sports Fix is rebooting and is ready to bring you coverage of North Country sports. In fact, we are here to be your source for Frontier League sports, Watertown Red and Black and Rams coverage, and, of course, Syracuse Orange discussion.

Also, each morning Fox Sports 1410 will air North Country ScoreCenters: I'll have updates on what happened on the courts and fields locally and a preview for what's on tap tonight.

And then there's the Sports Fix - airing Friday mornings from 7 to 9. We will put a two-hour spotlight on the players, coaches and media that make up North Country sports. Plus, as always, I'll mix in a few opinions and we may even break news every now and again, too. But above all, the Sports Fix is here for you, so let us know your thoughts via email: mattmcsportsfix@yahoo.com and Twitter: @matthewmcclusky https://twitter.com/MatthewMcClusky!


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